The Sell: The ultimate outdoor recreation support vehicle
The Test: Maneuvering through a rutted sandpit of a road in the Willamette National Forest, the new five-passenger Outback ($24,895; 25 mpg city/33 hwy) drives like it’s in its natural element. Helping the cause is the Sube’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance and all-conditions, off-road X-Mode AWD system, which boosts power and reduces wheel spin.
Out on the highway, the wagon’s signature Boxer engine provides smooth power and solid handling, albeit merely decent fuel economy. (The 2.5-liter four-cylinder version averaged 24 miles per gallon.)
The interior has been significantly upgraded from last year’s model, with two more cubic feet of cargo space and a supremely comfortable and supportive driver’s seat (finally). The new 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system is marvelously intuitive. Subaru even flattened the door wells, turning them into wide steps to make it easier to access the built-in adjustable roof-rack rails. A back-up camera comes standard, and an optional number-pad lock lets you leave your keys behind at the trailhead or beach.
What’s Missing? The CVT automatic transmission is the only one available. Subaru nixed a stick-shift option.
The Verdict: What was once near perfect for kayakers, bikers, car-campers, skiers, anglers, road trippers, and dog lovers has been perfected.